The line at the Starbucks Coffee Shop at 30 Park Row in Lower Manhattan was filled with the usual characters last Wednesday morning. Investment bankers, bond traders, and corporate titans flipped through pages of the Wall Street Journal while awaiting their morning Frappuccino. Quite a normal day in Downtown, New York, despite the Occupy Wall Street protests mere blocks away.
While global commerce has not been impacted, the fledgling Occupy Wall Street movement is growing in leaps and bounds with increased news media coverage and donations. A recent visit revealed mobs of reporters and television cameras peering down on a small group of camped out protesters. A much larger group of tourists walked through the park, gawking with laughter at some of the homemade signs and grimy looking digs.
Although Occupy Wall Street prides itself on its leadershipless structure, the group has become a smorgasbord of protestors advancing their individual causes. Playing to the cameras above, a man holds a sign reading "STOP FRACKING." Only feet away a small group spread a long poster blaring "HOW ABOUT WE START REPARATIONS." The Communist Party of America was on the scene passing out literature, as well as members of numerous labor unions who were offering financial assistance to the protesters.
Several protesters were lying down on the ground with oversize packs of Crayola markers. Still sprawled out in their sleeping bags, they spent the afternoon creating more makeshift signs using brown cardboard boxes. While there were certainly plenty of signs, they were all very general and dissimilar in nature. The movement's ambiguous philosophy has constrained it from speaking with a common voice. The universal theme of "We are the 99%" was coupled with a menagerie of other messages, all seemingly unrelated.
Despite the disorganized nature of Occupy Wall Street, donations have been pouring into the group. New York City Police are keeping a watchful eye, but seem unwilling to forcibly remove peaceful protesters. While Mayor Mike Bloomberg is sympathetic to some of the group's complaints, he also knows that they have worn out their welcome with downtown residents. In the end, it may be Mother Nature who has the final say.